Engaging in the Movement for Black Lives, and How it Relates to Western Center’s Work
We are encouraged that so many people are looking for ways to get involved in the movement for justice and Black lives. There’s a lot to do. Below we’ve put together a list of action items and resources that we hope will serve as a catalyst for you. We are all undergoing a fundamental shift – it is not a short game, but a long one.
In case you missed it, you can find Western Center’s statement recommitting ourselves to the work of ending systemic violence and oppression of Black people here.
First and foremost, as individuals and as part of communities and networks, contact your local officials to demand change. Specifically, we need a fundamental shift of resources away from police, and toward community investment. When Western Center does our work to alleviate poverty, we always look for resources to support overall community health. Redirecting police resources will not only increase safety for everyone, it will increase health as well. In that way, the redirection of police resources to qualified workers and community programs is a crucial part of advancing the work of Western Center.
Right now, police act as mental health workers, homeless outreach, and school guidance counselors (to name a few), and departments are being funded that way – to the detriment of community health. Rather than giving such substantial resources to police departments to do things they are not qualified to do, funding must be funneled instead to qualified workers, and to communities that have been disproportionately harmed by police. Los Angeles has already announced a reduction (albeit small) in police funding; it’s a good first step in the right direction. Here are resources with background explaining what is happening in the movement to redirect resources from police:
LA Times: “Mayor Eric Garcetti said he will direct $250 million to youth jobs, health initiatives and “peace centers” to heal trauma and will allow those who have suffered discrimination to collect damages. The money will have to be cut from other city operations; Garcetti, backed by City Council President Nury Martinez and his new Police Commission president, said as much as $150 million would come from the Los Angeles Police Department.”
NPR: “One of the problems that we’re encountering here is this massive expansion in the scope of policing over the last 40 years or so. Policing is now happening in our schools. It’s happening in relation to the problems of homelessness, untreated mental illness, youth violence and some things that we historically associate police with.”
If you are in Los Angeles, our partner, Youth Justice Coalition, has these specific asks:
- A permanent ban on the use of gang databases and all “data-driven” policing technologies and databases (or predictive policing).
- Destroy military-grade weapons and tools, end the use of drones.
- DO NOT EXPAND Community Policing Partnerships, and instead redirect 5% more of the budget to Peacebuilders (street interventionists).
- Support the demand to remove LAUSD PD from schools in LA and replace them with youth workers and cultural workers from local CBOs.
Another important call-to-action from our grassroots partners, in support of defunding police and prisons here in California, is to help pass Senate Bill 144 (Mitchell) – a priority for the Legislative Black Caucus, and a Western Center co-sponsored bill. We invite you to take action in support of SB 144 to end fees charged to people in the criminal justice system, which disproportionately saddle people of color and women with overwhelming debt. SB 144 is an important step toward taking money away from the criminal justice system and putting it back in the hands of people with low-incomes and communities of color.
- Contact your state legislator.
- Submit a letter of support! We make it easy right here.
- Help us shape policy by sharing your experience and ideas. Take our survey at tinyurl.com/finefeesurvey.
- Connect with the SB 144 coalition on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at CaDebtJustice and share your support using #DebtFreeJustice.
The Center for American Progress has an opportunity for action to demand that state attorney generals be empowered to investigate, litigate, and resolve police misconduct.
If you are an attorney, volunteer for client intake and clinics at your local legal aid and encourage colleagues to do the same. This means lending time and expertise to representing clients on day to day matters, not just impact cases. Legal aids can’t provide representation in most cases because they don’t have enough staff.
Make sure you are engaging in continued, probably uncomfortable dialogue with friends, family, neighbors and colleagues. Examine your workplace, culture, practices, and clients. Racism is baked into American law and culture; we need all hands on deck to heal. Are there ways in which Black people and other underserved groups are silenced in your workplace and communities? Even more challenging, but part of the work, are there clients you serve or businesses you patronize that perpetuate poverty and white supremacy? Can you reevaluate those relationships?
Here is a working document of detailed anti-racist resources to aid as background for those conversations.
Here is homework to absorb, let sink in, carry with you, share with others, and sear into your mind:
Read: White Fragility, The New Jim Crow, The Fire Next Time, The 1619 Project, The Case for Reparations, Between the World and Me (here is the article adaptation, but not a replacement for the whole book), How to Be an Antiracist, So You Want to Talk About Race, The Color of Law
Watch: 13th (currently free to watch), Just Mercy (currently free to watch), I Am Not Your Negro, When They See Us
Listen: 1619, Ear Hustle, Code Switch